Statement of Rodger Schlickeisen on the Passing of The Honorable John Chafee

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(10/25/1999) - The death of Senator John Chafee is a double blow to all of us in the environmental community, for as both a statesman and a friend, he was extraordinary -- brilliant but modest, trustworthy but savvy, and above all, committed to what was good for people and good for the environment. He was a role model for putting aside partisan differences to get the job done. Senator Chafee was a leader – and a “public servant" in the best sense of the word.

Over the past several decades, when policymakers thought of any environmental issue in the Senate, they thought of Senator Chafee–what would he think, what would he do, what would he say? Although there are certainly other good environmentalists in Congress, one could rightfully call Sen. Chafee the Environmental Conscience of the Senate. He was one of those increasingly rare Members of Congress who attract widespread respect from both sides of the aisle – including those with whom they disagree on the issues – because of their impeccable integrity.

Senator Chafee’s environmental record is well known. He was a part of every significant action taken at the national and international levels over the past two decades to control pollution and conserve natural resources. He supported the international biodiversity and global warming treaties.

From amendments to the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act to curbing billboard blight along our highways, Sen. Chafee has been a leader. Just this month, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the League of Conservation Voters.

Defenders of Wildlife is particularly grateful for his leadership in protecting wildlife and promoting permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He was the co-author of the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980 and a champion of endangered species. One recent episode stands out with pride in our memories here at Defenders. During the 104th Congress, when an onslaught of anti- environmental legislation struck Capitol Hill, John Chafee stood firm for the environment. For example, he led the fight against an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill that would have killed the red wolf reintroduction program. He opposed the rider on the floor and won – the first environmental vote conservationists won in the Senate in that destructive Congress. Defenders of Wildlife is noted for its leadership on wolf and other wildlife issues, but I can tell you for certain that Senator Chafee was just as thrilled as we were with his victory. He was a hero in the true sense of the word because his good deeds helped the quality of the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the legacy of wildlife and land we leave to future generations. His friends, allies, and colleagues will miss him. So will the wildlife.


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